Monday, February 23, 2009

Arts Funding in Minnesota

Dear Legislator,

I am writing to you concerning Governor Pawlenty's budget plan cutting arts related spending and elimination of the Arts Board by 2011. These proposed cuts are simply a bad idea, and are contrary to the express wishes of Minnesota voters.

Last fall, Minnesotans sent a clear message that they value the arts and felt that dedicated funding was an important statement of who we are. Governor Pawlenty’s cuts, however, seem to try and take back the very increase that voters demanded. Passage of the amendment was a clear message sent by voters that they want MORE investment in the arts and culture, not less.

A 2006 study showed that Minnesota non-profit art organizations had $840 million in economic impact on the state. The same study showed that for every one dollar of investment by the state art boards in artist, there is an $11 return on that investment. Furthermore, these non-profits are often the incubators for for-profits arts enterprises which represent millions more dollars in economic impact for our state. “The arts” in Minnesota are small business. Artists and arts organizations buy equipment and supplies; hire employees; rent studios; and contract for services. Budget cuts that affect this industry have a direct and immediate impact on more than just the artist, but also to the countless business and employees that they support. Funding through these agencies has an economic multiplier effect that should not be overlooked or dismissed.

According to a 2001 report by the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices, “If states intend to build their economies on the jobs of the future and improve rural communities…they must cultivate a creative workforce and attract arts-based businesses.” Yet, the proposed budget cuts will cut funding to organizations that cultivate this part of the economy by over 33%.

Yes, it can be argued that, the arts now have dedicated funding through the state sales tax, however this funding is still in the pipeline and is years off in being fully realized. Cutting funding now fails to take seriously the importance voters have placed on the arts, and will harm many small businesses in these productive industries at a time when they are in a great position to help invigorate the economy.

Cutting funding for the arts in Minnesota is not in the best interest of Minnesotans. The arts community uses the money it receives, it does not simply use the grants and funding to pay down credit cards or by television sets and DVD’s – they use the money to run their business and support other businesses and individuals. The money they receive is recirculated throughout Minnesota’s economy many times over and in the process it enriches our lives in the ways that Minnesotans have said they want. Please see to it that this important part of our local small business economy is not harmed by short sighted thinking about what artists bring to our economy – oppose these reductions.